Celebrating Cranes, Water and Wetlands

Members of the Dargle Conservancy are custodians of an important water catchment on which millions of people rely. Dargle Conservancy believes that it is important to inspire the next generation to value the biodiversity of our valley and has for many years supported the creative environmental work of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project in Dargle schools. This year Dargle Conservancy has sponsored lessons around water issues and also lessons on Cranes to celebrate their 10th anniversary. The Crowned Crane is the Dargle Conservancy logo.

It was an exciting day at Dargle School on 14 August as Penz, Tutu, Annie and Eidin of the Midlands Meander Education Project arrived to celebrate Water.  We started off by gathering the whole school together for Water Safety with Annie, which had the kids engrossed. Many children swim in the local rivers so it was great to see them learning about simple techniques to save lives.

r dargle school water safety lessons. jpg

We then split up. Tutu took the Grade 4 & 5’s to learn about compost heaps (they had done water and cranes the week before – see below) Penz took the Grade 6 and 7 learners off to Kimber’s Dam and the stream nearby to do a Mini-SASS test.

r dargle school dam

The learners were divided into two groups, one to study the animal evidence and one to study the plants. Armed them with field guides, they went on a self-discovery course along the wetland.

r dargle school looking

They had lots of fun while threading lightly on the soil to be careful not to trample anything valuable to their data collection. When they came back, the animal group was happy to report sightings of black ducks, a dead reed buck in the water, mongoose droppings and cow dung amongst others. The plants group noted incema, sedges and other aquatic plants. Using the information gathered, we constructed a food web.r dargle school in stream.

Further down the road we reached the spot where the dam drains into a stream and here we did our mini sass test. We found lots of caddis fly casing on the rocks, whirligig beetles, tapeworms and water striders. We also learned why there were bits of orange in the wetland and in the river. The score proved the stream to in a largely modified, poor condition.

r dargle school mini sass.

Eidin took the Grade 2 and 3 classes. We read ‘Tyrannosaurus Drip’ which is a very water related story about peace-loving and war-mongering dinosaurs. We then played some wild water hula hoop games and talked about cranes and other creatures that live around water.

A couple of weeks ago, with the Grade 4 and 5 classes, we explored the water cycle, drew it, danced it and rapped it! A lesson on cranes followed – the three types of cranes found in South Africa, their habitats, eating habits, how they mate for life and love to dance. Three of the children had seen cranes in the wild. We decided to make two crowned cranes using recycled cardboard tubing, old posters and bags.   Two beautiful giant crane puppets went outside to dance in the school grounds!

crane puppet cropped

It was a great morning of learning and play and the children were excited about getting a crane sign for their school.  What did the learners think about the lesson?

‘I liked making the cranes, we painted and cut up old bags, we stuffed the head with dried grass and taped on the beak.’

‘I didn’t know that cranes could dance! I thought people are the only ones dancing’

‘The flying and dancing was nice everybody was having fun’

On Wednesday 14th August Nikki Brighton from the Dargle Conservancy arrived to present the school with honorary membership of the Conservancy and talk to them about the work of the Conservancy and the importance of learning about and caring for the local environment.

r dargle school banner.

The Grade 4s raced off to get their two Crowned Crane puppets and the whole school danced with them around the playground.

r giant crane and kids cropped. JPG

Educator, Maureen Mabizela nailed the Dargle Conservancy to the gate surrounded by excited children.

r dargle school member sign

Eidin took the Grade 5, 6 and 7 classes and introduced them to the concept of fly fishing, a popular tourism draw card to the area. We compared fly fishing to fishing with bait which quite a few of the boys have done. Then they were asked to find pictures of trout in fly fishing magazines. After this they learnt what a ‘fly’ is and talked about what fresh water fish eat from season to season. Then Eidin brought out the famous ‘Duckworth Dargle Delight’ – a fly that was created especially for the area.

r duckworth dargle fly

They thought this was fantastic! They have been doing lots of beading at art class so could really appreciate the finesse it takes to make a fly. They were also keen on doing some fish art as some the pictures of fish really inspired them. During my next lesson we are going to be learning to cast and also make some great big insect and fish pictures.

r dargle school and eidin

The kids comments:

‘I liked this lesson, I didn’t know that this fish (trout) is not from South Africa’

‘I am looking at all the insects now to see if I can make a fly’

‘Maybe I will go fishing’ said one of the girls (the girls had never fished before but got quite interested).

Along the valley in Impendle, Nkanyiso Ndlela was doing lessons focussed on Wetlands.

Nhlabamkhosi Primary School was a long 2 km walk from the taxi rank. The Grade 7 class knew that they were going to learn about wetlands, but they had no idea about the beauty and the benefits of them.  Nkanyiso introduced himself, Dargle Conservancy, Midlands Meander Association Education Project and the programme of the day, before dividing the learners into groups.

I started asking questions regarding wetlands and asked them to write anything they know about wetlands. They all said “wetlands are useless, smell terrible and they bring dangerous animals like snakes to the communities.” I was so surprised!Nka impendle class fix

Just next to school there is a big wetland with cattle grazing, beautiful white egrets following the cows and there are people making bricks from wetland soil. I did a short presentation and spoke about what they see every day happening in the wetlands – we discussed biodiversity and the food chain. I used the Windows on Wetlands poster to show negative and positive impacts on wetlands and how catchments work.

We went out to a wetland where each group had to investigate, identify and record what they found. They identified birds, bird nest, ukalumuzi which is a medicinal plant that help cure flu, uxhaposi which is very delicious imifino. During the process of investigation they asked lots of questions.

nkanyiso @nhlabamkhosi fixed.

We then went back in the class room to discuss the findings where I introduced another activity called Healthy Wetland Ecosystem which focuses on wetland biodiversity. In groups, they had to design a poster full of biodiversity by drawing things which they think makes up a healthy wetland. This activity kept them running and screaming. I assessed all three groups based on the biodiversity in the poster, the group that had lot of biodiversity won, which was the yellow team. There was happiness and disappointment so to end, I explained to them that a winner is a learner that has learnt something and will pass on the knowledge to family and friends and respect wetlands. All promised to do this and everyone was happy.

Teacher, P Mdlalose commented: “The lesson was well organized and gave the learners clear understanding and knowledge about wetlands. This lesson links to natural science, where the learners learnt about different habitats, animals and ecosystem. The presenter was very good.”

Nka wetland game fix

At Novuka primary school the next day, things were a little different (and the walk to get there and back was even longer!).

Learners knew wetlands are habitats for plants and animals, provide useful plants for human beings like, incema, ithembu, ingcobosi for weaving basketry and sleeping mats. When I asked how they knew so much, they told me that they learnt about wetlands in their natural science lesson and they pass wetland on the way to school where they see birds like, ugilonki, hammerkop. The boys said they hunt umthini (water mongoose) in that wetland. I focussed on biodiversity and negative impacts people have on wetlands.

After the break we went to see a wetland not far from the school. We came across three green snakes called ivuzamanzi. Learners were excited and all wanted to see a snake, no one suggested harming or to killing the snake. The principal who was with us, reminded the learners about the importance of snakes and what they should do when they see a snake. We discussed the impact that a farm house next to a wetland (where they farm cattle, goats, pigs and chickens has on the wetland.  They dispose of waste in the wetland, part of the wetland is burnt. We were lucky enough to reach in a part of a wetland where there were lots of birds and plants. We returned to school and played a healthy wetland ecosystem game and discussed what should we do to protect our wetlands.

Mr Khambule, the educator commented “The lesson was very effective, learners actively involved and interesting. The lesson was linked to A&C, LO, NS and SS. They learnt about biodiversity and conservation.”  Last year Dargle Conservancy funded a visit from the Snake Man – Pat McKrill to this school – looks like he made a big impression.

Kids find nest Nka fix

At Corrie Lynn School, Eidin Griffin started the Crane Day off with the tiniest people in Grade R. She reports: After warming up with dancing, counting and colour games I brought out some pictures of the three types of Cranes found in the midlands and we looked at each type. One or two of the children had seen a crowned crane before, which was nice. We talked about where they lived and what they eat and how they dance.

r corrie lynn 058

After this we went outside and paired up and practiced our crane dancing. We then went back to the classroom and settled down to draw crowned cranes. The kids and their teacher carried on with this and I headed to the Grade 1and 2 classroom. I did a fairly similiar lesson with these grades except we focussed more on the word ‘habitat’ and looked at what sort of food a crane prefers to eat. A crane menu!

r corrie lynn 066

The kids happily pulled out their drawing books and drew cranes with their favourite food surrounding them.

r Crane Day Corrie Lynn

Nikki Brighton arrived at the break and set up her Dargle Conservancy banner much to the interest of all the kids.

r corrie lynn 044

She gave a talk about the work of the Conservancy and presented the school with an honorary membership of the Dargle Conservancy.

r corrie lynn 038

I then took on the Grade 3and4s and we looked at cranes and decided to make a big collage. I spread out some material and the children got cutting out animals, birds and insects from magazines. We grouped carnivores, herbivores and omnivores in clusters and labelled them and stuck them on the banner. We found ‘habitats’ such as grasslands, mountains, sea, forest and beaches and grouped them. We had new words such as ‘prey’ and ‘predator’ and glued appropriate animals beside them. It was a VERY busy banner but looks fantastic hanging in the classroom and helps in pictures to describe these terms easily.

After this I took a deep breath and plunged into a series of crane banners with the Grade 5,6 and 7s. They each chose a crane and in groups drew and painted it on big sheets of red material.

r Cranes Grade 5 Corrie Lynn

They look fantastic and everybody was surprised and impressed by their work. They will be displayed at the MMAEP Annual award ceremony on 28 November.

r Crane Banner Corrie Lynn

After all this I was deeply relieved that I live only 2kms up the road as a long drive would have floored me!  Everybody had fun and learnt new things about cranes, their environment and themselves.

r corrie lynn 048

As part of the Dargle Decade Celebrations this month, Tanya Smith of EWTs African Crane Conservation Programme gave an inspiring presentation on Cranes in the Dargle and Beyond to Conservancy members. Lesley and Ian Thompson said “We thoroughly enjoyed last night and were impressed with Tanya’s passion and knowledge.”  Ann and Mike Weedon commented “We really enjoyed Tanya’s talk.”

tanya talk on cranes res

Dargle is definitely Crane Country.

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